Every year, millions of people are exposed to toxic water, noxious air and contaminated land. This pollution kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined, and costs the world’s economies over $4.9 trillion annually. More than 90% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, meaning the world’s poorest communities and communities of color continue to suffer the worst consequences. These same citizens have little political clout or power to influence the decisions that impact their lives and livelihoods.

Local communities have the right to develop and advance their own solutions to pollution. Supporting their capacity to meaningfully participate in policymaking processes and identify the right spaces in which to engage can go a long way in helping governments realize their environmental health commitments.

Research shows that local communities can document pollution hotspots, track cumulative impacts, identify unlawful polluters and generate political momentum to enforce environmental laws.

Strengthening the Right to Information for People and the Environment (STRIPE)

Through our Strengthening the Right to Information for People and the Environment (STRIPE) project, WRI partners with local communities and civil society organizations to advance the right to a clean, healthy, safe environment for all. We do this by ensuring that everyone, everywhere has the voice, power and information to steer environmental decision-making.

More specifically, we:

Assess countries’ legal commitments.

We examine nation’s commitments to environmental rights, as well as their pollution control laws, standards and regulations. Our research analyzes countries’ regulatory frameworks, enforcement of pollution control standards and legal recognition of citizens’ rights to access environmental information, participate in decision-making and obtain justice when these rights are threatened.

Support local communities’ ability to transform environmental information into action.

We help community members understand their environmental rights, as well as the regulations with which all companies and citizens must comply. We then work with local communities to monitor air and water pollution levels, identify sources of contamination and document poor compliance with pollution control laws. This information enables communities to hold wrongdoers accountable and advocate for stronger enforcement.

Identify opportunities for communities to shape environmental decision-making.

We help citizens and civil society organizations voice their concerns — such as on companies’ failure to meet existing water quality standards — with the right decision-makers. We also support locally led efforts to organize community events, meet with private companies and petition government officials for change.

Foster broad coalitions between government, civil society and communities.

We bring together a cross-section of stakeholders — including community members, academic experts, journalists and civil society organizations — with government officials at local, national and global levels. We are building a broad movement in which local communities have the information and power to call upon their elected officials to expand environmental data access and more strictly enforce existing pollution controls.

Photo Credt: Laura Villadiego